Matty looks back at a much-maligned Tobe Hooper twosome with writer and star Daniel Matmor.

There’s a moment in Tobe Hooper’s NIGHT TERRORS (1993) when, sitting down for dinner upon her arrival in modern-day Alexandria, the father of ingénue Genie Matteson both outlines this sexy shocker’s thematic crux, and seems to pass a disarmingly pertinent comment on the career of its legendary director. “They thought Christ was a spirit being,” the archaeologist says of the Gnostic ruins he and his team have unearthed. “And that God and Satan were one”.

Indeed, with the line between the virtuous and the wicked – between pleasure and pain, and saint and sinner – blurred throughout Night Terrors‘ running time, co-scripter Daniel Matmor’s fruity exploration of indivisible opposites could very well serve as the definitive, self-reflexive statement on Hooper’s eclectic legacy. By and large, Hooper’s work trundles across the tightrope of what’s good and what’s very, very bad. And while I’d happily argue the merits of each one of his berserk filmic offerings – even dreck like Mortuary (2005) – the general consensus is this: for every stone cold classic – for every Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Poltergeist (1982) – there’s a dud a la Eaten Alive (1976) and Spontaneous Combustion (1990).

“Tobe is a fabulous director,” says Matmor, his cheerful, plummy voice ricocheting down the phone. “He has a vision and he knows what he wants. He sort of talks in shorthand and he’s very abrupt, but I’ve worked with all sorts of directors and he’s certainly one of the best. The reason his films are so hit and miss is because he’s so out there. But I have a theory: you can’t be brilliant without making the occasional doo-doo. It’s like Shakespeare. The Wives of Windsor is a doo-doo, but Macbeth is magnificent! And all of Tobe’s films are watchable. There’s just something about them that is just so bizarre that they pass the test of time.”

It was via Facebook that Matmor and I initially touched base. And as our messenger back and forth evolved into a transatlantic phone call – with the Israel-born, British ex-pat speaking from his home in Canada – it was the ropier end of Hooper’s resume that formed the bulk of our conversation. After all, that’s where the much-maligned double whammy of Night Terrors and THE MANGLER (1995) – Matmor’s second and final team-up with the cigar-chomping maestro – dwell.

Well, apparently.

Apparently ‘cos despite the two of them once sharing space on IMDb’s Bottom #250 (as well as Night Terrors being cited as “the worst horror film made during the ’90s” by the Radio Times), the pair are, in fact, really bloody good. Excellent, even – albeit in that crackpot, ‘late night tonic’ kind of way. As daft as they are disturbing, Night Terrors and The Mangler are the sort of movies that swirl around your mind’s eye when watched in the wee hours; imaginative, alluringly strange, and as dangerous and moreish as any psychotropic drug. Sure, they’re a mite saggy and confusing in places, with their lunatic plots veering close to incomprehension. But Hooper’s uncanny sense of the macabre and his keen knack for conjuring sequences of twitchy, surreal splendour rein supreme. And in many ways, they represent the idiosyncratic auteur at his bombastic best. Robust and thrillingly ghoulish, all of his signature ideas, beats, and images are present and correct. The Mangler in particular – with its accents on familial bonds, jet-black comedy, and scenes that fizz with feverish intensity – unspools like a greatest hits compendium.

“You know, films now have become so boring and so predictable,” offers Matmor. “And I look at Night Terrors, and I look at The Mangler and I think, “O.K., so they don’t make that much sense, BUT they’re not predictable!”. They’re campy, but there’s some serious stuff in them; real art. The weirdest thing is that I met a producer over at New Line a few years ago and she asked me what I’d done, and I said Night Terrors. And she said, “You’re the writer?! It’s my favourite film!” So I guess [these movies] do talk to some people!”

Daniel Matmor
Writer and star Daniel Matmor

Tobe or Not Tobe: The Road to Hooper

As an artist, Matmor is next to impossible to pin down.

His childhood was marked by luxury after his mother made a fortune through her clothing business; a fortune which had all but evaporated by Matmor’s adolescence. His subsequent employment history reads as a vagabond’s amble through the depths of creativity: From learning the ins and outs of cheffing at London’s plush Savoy Hotel; to theatre and his latest written venture, an uproarious cookbook-cum-memoir that – as of this writing – is edging closer to completion. Anchoring it all is Matmor’s stint within the trenches of low to mid-budget genre movies, on either side of the camera.

Having already written and directed the little-seen ghetto-sploiter Homeboyz II: Crack City (1989) (“I’m not proud of it,” laughs Matmor, “But it was my film school!”), it was six months after submitting a script to iconic schlock outfit Cannon Films that Matmor received the call about Night Terrors.

Well, to be more specific, the knock.

“There was a knock on my door, at about seven o’clock at night, and it was a young man asking if I was Daniel Matmor. He said he was from Cannon and that although they didn’t like the script I’d sent them – actually, “hated” was the word he used [laughs] – they liked my writing. They liked my writing and they had a script for a horror film that was going to be shot imminently in Israel, but it needed to be completely rewritten because their partners, Warner Brothers, hated it. He said his name was Rom Globus and that his father was [Cannon head] Yoram Globus, and that he wanted me to rewrite it with him, just as long as we stuck to the original idea. It had to be set in Egypt and be about a young American girl who loses her innocence and somehow incorporate the Marquis DeSade. So I put together a synopsis – which made no sense, I mean, how could it? [laughing] – and met with Rom’s tempestuous old man the next morning and pitched it. And then eight hours later I was flying first class to Tel Aviv with copies of Justine and A Thousand Days of Sodom, which the stewardess thought was rather strange reading material.”

So how was Rom to write with? Were there any disputes or anything?

“He was a nice lad. A very nice lad, very – unlike his father – very sensitive [laughs]. Kind, considerate, and in his father’s eyes a failure because he wasn’t a bully with fire in the belly. I think he ended up on a spiritual quest of some sort… But no, he was fine. In fact, we worked quite well together. It wasn’t him who was the problem; it was Night Terrors’ producers who all wanted their two cents worth, and us having to stick to the previous scripts premise which was really ridiculous and sad. Literally we had to write it in three weeks. The heads of each department had a courier waiting outside our door in the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, and every time we finished a page it was photocopied and sent out to all the departments so that they knew what to build.”

Nudged into production as Cannon was sliding into ruin, by Matmor’s reckoning Night Terrors was, essentially, a film made up as they went along. With the project’s original helmer, British journeyman Gerry O’Hara, jumping ship (supposedly due to the earlier script, which envisaged a slasher-y Marquis De Sade prowling 1920s Cairo), it was into this chaotic scenario that Cannon alum Tobe Hooper stepped. However, the last minute signing of the grizzled fright-wiz was far from a coup. The Hooper here was a million miles away from the (somewhat) hot property the studio had snagged for a three picture deal in the mid-’80s, post the blockbusting success of Poltergeist.

In short, the trio of films that Hooper lensed under his previous Cannon deal had all but killed his career. Already on shaky ground thanks to the behind the scenes controversy of Poltergeist (producer Steven Spielberg was famously hands on, leading to a ‘who’s the real director?’ debate that still rages to this day), the poor critical reception and dismal box office of kitschy sci-fi romp Lifeforce (1985), under-appreciated remake Invaders From Mars (1986), and gross-out sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) forced Hooper to seek work in network television. And the disastrous Spontaneous Combustion and a failed attempt to get Cannon’s stab at Spider-Man off the ground aside, that’s where the director stayed; shepherding episodes of The Equalizer and Tales From the Crypt, as well as the feature length small-screen creeper I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990) in the lustrum between 1987 and Night Terrors.

In a 1995 chat with Fangoria [1] – conducted while Night Terrors, which went straight-to-video here in the U.K. in May ’94, was floundering for a stateside release – Hooper revealed that he grasped his return to moviemaking proper with both hands, if only to make a film outside his usual remit:

Night Terrors was interesting… I was flown to Israel to bail it out. I had to start shooting in two weeks. I liked [it] because it was based on the Marquis De Sade, so it gave me the opportunity to do something that people like Ken Russell and Nicolas Roeg get to do; something non-linear and erotic.”

True to the brief that Matmor was given, Night Terrors finds a wholesome American girl, the aforementioned Genie (played by Zoe Trilling, a charming, genre-friendly starlet who also appeared in The Borrower (1991) and Night of the Demons 2 (1994) before vanishing into the ether [2]), landing in Egypt (actually Israel) and falling foul of a cult of DeSade worshippers.

“I had to pass Night Terrors’ script through Tobe first. He was reading it and he says [adopting a dead-on Hooper growl], “It’s not horrific”. And I said, “Pardon?”. “It’s not horrific,” he said again, taking his cigar out of his mouth. “I’m not laughing. When it’s horrific, I laugh”. So I took it and told him I’d try again, and I gave it back to him a few days later. He’s reading it and he starts to chuckle, “Huh, huh, huh – that’s good. You killed the maid off. You have her hanging from a beam. Huh, huh, huh.” And then he goes, “But Dan, WHY did you kill her off?”. And before I could even properly answer he stops me and says, “You’ve got to keep her alive a little longer while she’s dangling so we can at least hear her gargle and see her eyes bug out, man”. So that’s how I started working with one of the kings of horror!”

Night Terrors [1]
Night Terrors starlet Zoe Trilling

The Trouble with Harry

Other than Hooper, Night Terrors and The Mangler are also graced with the presence of another horror icon: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) star Robert Englund, who’d previously worked with Hooper on grubby croc-shocker Eaten Alive, and had reconnected with the helmer on his revisionist episode of the dismal Elm Steet spin-off series, Freddy’s Nightmares. Ever the villain, Night Terrors finds Englund unleashing a dual turn as the crazed DeSade and his equally loopy descendant, while The Mangler sees him clad in old man make-up and designer leg braces as the tyrannical Bill Gartley, the ghastly owner of the eponymous, malevolent laundry press. In both films, Englund’s predilection for hamming it up is blissfully suited to Hooper’s decadent flights of fancy. Chewing the scenery with abandon, all three turns are marvellous horror performances in and of themselves, and a testament to Englund’s cherished status as the preeminent bogeyman of his generation.

It’s something not lost on Matmor, who dumped the word processor in favour of acting alongside the pop-culture hero come The Mangler.

“He’s very good isn’t he? A great performer. And Robert is a wonderful man. He’s very gracious and, for a star, he’s very well behaved. Everywhere he went he had this bodyguard with him called Dimitri – which is the perfect name for a bodyguard by the way, because if I had one, I’d call him Dimitri even if his real name was Ian. And I thought, you, know, “Bodyguard? Pfft, what a fucking poseur.” I mean, on Night Terrors, here we were in the Middle East. They’ve got other things to worry about; jihads and all sorts. They won’t care about Robert Englund. Well, we were on set and two busloads of schoolkids – I don’t know where they came from – charged off the buses and literally turned everything over looking for Freddy Krueger.”

“So skip forward a couple of years, we’re in South Africa shooting The Mangler and there’s Robert with Dimitri again. And I remember thinking, “Mandela’s just been released. There’s a civil war between the Zulus and the Inkathas, and some lot are blowing off bombs everywhere. They’ve had thirty years of apartheid. The last thing on anyone’s mind is Robert Englund.” Well, Robert invites me to go shopping with him, to some shopping mall that looks just like any mall you’d find in North America except that it’s an icon of white privilege. A year before, no black people were even allowed to walk in, except as servants. So we go to this giant palace of capitalism and it’s swamped with people who would have never been allowed in before, and Dimitri’s doing his bodyguard thing. And as we go up the escalator I see this very large African man. His eyes are wide. And as we get to the top he turns around, points, and screams, “IT’S FREDDY KRUUUUUUUUUUUUEGEEEEEEEEEEER!”. And all hell broke loose. Literally, a thousand people came pouring from everywhere. One woman took a little pair of nail scissors and actually took a lock of Robert’s hair; a lock from the dream demon, Freddy Krueger. Because, you know, that’s good mutu. It’s good magic if you can have a little power over the great tormentor of dreams, right? Just think what you could do to your enemies; you could make a fantastic potion! Anyway, Dimitri just snapped into action. All those years of going to the gym and looking at blueprints of every place they were going to and figuring out where the exits were; it all came out and he saved us. He ushered us out through the security gates and that was it. It wasn’t hubris. It wasn’t ego. Robert Englund absolutely did need a bodyguard!”

Robert Englund - De Sade
Englund as the Marquis DeSade in Night Terrors
Robert Englund - Gartley
… And as the “tyrannical” Bill Gartley in The Mangler

Englund-wise, Night Terrors and The Mangler form the latter half of a loosely connected, four movie run anchored by the veteran trouper; an unofficial series of films that I like to call ‘The Egomaniac Quartet’. Presented in the style of the spooky star vehicles of yore (think Vincent Price to Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe cycle, or Christopher Lee across Hammer’s Draculas), all are united in their casting of Englund as some kind of power-mad grotesque, rendered insane by a perverse lust for success. The first in this quadrangle was Dwight H. Little’s 1989 re-tooling of The Phantom of the Opera. Surfing the late ’80s wave of ‘Phantom Fever’ instigated by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 West End show [3], Little’s gruesome gothic naturally positions Englund in the title role; parlaying the actor’s post-Freddy infamy into a Faustian, slasher-soaked spin on Gaston Leroux’s classic tale.

Phantom was followed by Dance Macabre in 1992. Written and directed by cult hero Greydon Clark, Dance Macabre was originally conceived as a Phantom sequel – and actually released as such in Japan – before it was twisted into an effectively chilly, if slow, Psycho (1960) homage. Filmed on location in Saint Petersburg and set in a prestigious Russian dance school, Englund leads the charge in another (sort-of) dual role, playing a creepy dance instructor as well as dragging it up as the school’s eccentric head, the wheelchair-bound Madame Gordenko. As with DeSade in Night Terrors and Gartley in The Mangler, Gordenko found the beloved thesp once again clad in the striking make-up effects of fellow Elm Street alum David B. Miller; the man who’d designed and executed Freddy Krueger’s make-up in Wes Craven’s original Nightmare.

Interestingly, all four films in the Egomaniac Quartet were produced by prolific schlockmeister Harry Alan Towers. A storied figure in the annals of cut-price genre-making, Towers began in radio, penning audio dramas for Orson Welles and Michael Hidgson, before progressing to television in the 1950s, producing episodes of Theatre Royal and ITV Television Playhouse among others. Towers shifted to film in the ’60s, and became synonymous with tawdry but surprisingly star-studded adaptations of well-known literary texts; most famously mystery queen Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which the monolithic mogul brought to the screen on no less than three separate occasions (in 1965, 1974, and 1989). For ardent trash fans, though, it’s Towers’ team-up with Euro-sleaze guru Jess Franco for which he’ll be forever known. The British tosh svengali produced two Fu Manchu flicks, 99 Women (1969), The Girl From Rio (1969), Venus in Furs (1969), The Bloody Judge (1970), Dracula (1970), and a pair of pre-Night Terrors, DeSade-rooted dramas – Justine (1969) and Eugenie (1970) – for the iconoclastic smut auteur.

“Harry Alan Towers was one of the most astonishing people I’ve ever had to work with,” proclaims Matmor. “Harry was working with Cannon at the time of Night Terrors. And when I agreed to write the script, I said that I’d do it just so long as there are no women or children gratuitously tortured or killed. Harry said that was fine and once I’d finished, out in Israel, he told me to take a week off; to go “see the sights of the Holy Land” as he put it. So I thought, “Well, that’s curious but nevermind” and did so. And when I came back, Harry had completely changed Night Terrors‘ script, which now had a lot of whacking and lust and all kinds of nastiness shoved in [laughs].”

“I mean, here’s the thing with Harry: he would have production meetings in restaurants and I remember looking at him once, while we were ordering, and he’d gone white and started sweating and palpitating. I thought “Oh, God, the man’s dying!” and I said to him, “Harry? Harry?! Are you OK? Harry?!” And he just sputtered, “By God, what a fine pair of tits!”, staring at the waitress [laughs]. Another time, because [Harry and Cannon] were doing a film called The Mummy Lives (1993) at the same time as Night Terrors [4], he said he had an idea to piggy back on the sets for The Mummy and make another film. He said that he had a wonderful concept and that I could write it: “Tits For Tut. Like Carry On but with more sex.” [laughs]”

“Anyway, so I came back from sightseeing and saw that Harry had altered Night Terrors’ script. I had a conniption and insisted on going to see Yoram, Cannon’s head,” Matmor continues. “We were all staying at the Dan Hotel so I barged into Yoram’s suite and he says to me in his indomitable style, “I don’t care who screwed who. You tell me how I will lose money and I will listen”. I explained that Warner hated the last script because it was a tits and arse-type deal, which is exactly what Harry had turned Night Terrors back into. So Yoram called Harry in, who came in like Uriah Heep, all wringing hands and apologies, and Yoram said to him, “Listen, I didn’t pay Daniel good money and fly him in from Los Angeles for you to screw up the script”. Well, Yoram didn’t pay me good money but that’s neither here nor there, but then Harry started calling him “Uncle Yoram”. And I’m thinking “Uncle Yoram? My God, this is almost Dickensian”. Seriously. You couldn’t make it up! Harry says, “Uncle Yoram, filmmaking is a very difficult business. We really don’t need the confrontation. Of course we’ll change it back. It’s no problem, whatsoever”. And as we were leaving Yoram’s suite, Harry turned to me and said, “Bad show, Daniel. Very, very bad show. Going to the headmaster’s office like little teacher’s pet when you could have come to me and we could have sorted it all out? Very. Bad. Show.””

“Well, the next day, I hadn’t been paid yet – just my per diems which I’d saved, thank God. I came back and I had no room at the Dan. Yoram had flown back to Los Angeles and Harry had taken over the coop [laughs]. My bags were packed and I was, “Where the hell am I going to stay?!” Luckily I’d made friends with a guy, a hawker, I’d bought Arabic music tapes from outside the hotel. I told him my sad story and he let me stay with him. But I still had some work on set as an actor. No-one on the crew would talk me; it was as if I had leprosy, right, because I wasn’t on ‘Harry’s winning team’. I didn’t know and hadn’t made friends with Tobe yet either, but then Tobe went over time and over budget so scenes had to be cut or rewritten. I’d just got my ticket home when Harry slithered up to me and said, “You have to do this. You’re the writer.” And I said, “No I don’t, actually. I haven’t been paid so I don’t have to do anything”. I finally agreed to do it on two conditions: I get my room in the Dan back, and I get all my future per diems and my fee paid up front into my bank account and as soon as the money was in there I’d get to work. And within three hours the money was there. I got my room back and we went forwards.”

And forwards they did, with the producer sheepishly agreeing to Matmor – who by now had forged a solid friendship with Hooper – coming aboard the Stephen King-based Mangler eighteen months later. For Towers, though, a certain amount of resentment still lingered, and the perpetually cost-conscious maven refused to pay a now in front of the camera Matmor – the film’s third-billed star – more than scale.

“Hey, it’s better to be the man exploited than the man ignored,” quips Matmor. “Besides, I got to go to Mother Africa, all expenses paid. How often does someone get to have an adventure like that?”

The Mangler 1
The eponymous ‘mangler’, an “incredible piece of production design”.

 

Killer Machines & Angry Teds

Funnily, Harry Alan Towers wasn’t the only person aggrieved on The Mangler‘s Johannesburg set. Once earmarked as a vehicle for Witchboard (1986) director Kevin Tenney, Hooper’s grandiose handling of the project (which the stogie-smoking virtuoso co-wrote alongside a pseudonymous Towers and visual effects supervisor Stephen Brooks – a graduate of Lifeforce and Spontaneous Combustion) drove The Mangler‘s executive producer Anant Singh to distraction. Simply, Hooper and Singh did not get on at all.

“Generally producers are averse to Tobe because they can’t control him. And Anant and Tobe had a very tumultuous relationship,” chuckles Matmor. “Anant called Tobe ‘The Great Money Waster’ and Tobe called Anant ‘That Indian Cocksucker’. It all came down to Tobe spending more money than what Anant wanted to spend. For instance, the mangler itself was a real machine; it was designed by Tobe’s son, William, and they had engineers build the damn thing. It was huge! And it was functional – well, it didn’t fold people up like it does in the film, but it had all these whirring gears and things that opened up and out and such. It was magnificent. And it was actually kind of frightening because of all the crazy mechanical devices that would be going wild inside it.”

Personally there’s not much I’d add to Matmor’s assessment of the titular industrial machinery. An incredible piece of production design – some naff CGI at the film’s close notwithstanding – the mangler is a hulking steampunk behemoth that Hooper photographs with fetishistic glee. A mass of chains and cogs, and boasting a curiously inviting set of metallic jaws, the gargantuan water wringer is as seductively monstrous as any of the other sexually-charged beasts that litter horror history; from Dracula to H.R. Giger’s Xenomorph. Moreover, its outrageous yet nightmarish appearance works perfectly within the crackpot film it serves. I mean, what else could a demonic, blood-hungry sheet-folding machine that demands virginal sacrifices in order to keep the bigwigs of the town it’s in financially prosperous look like?

“You know, The Mangler might be daft and campy, but the film is about something. It does have subtext,” muses Matmor. “The whole film is about greed, isn’t it. I know Tobe wanted it to be an attack on capitalism, with the sweatshop thing he was doing. And that carried over to my character, this hippy exorcist guy, the brother-in-law, Mark. The problem was that about two thirds of the way through shooting Tobe decided I should be American and not my natural English. So my accent goes all over the place! Tobe said we’d fix it in post but we never did.”

“I did get to be ripped apart by the mangler, though. Well, before I got ripped apart I had to get blown back by a machine. There were no stuntmen – we all did our own stunts – so they put a bunch of cardboard boxes behind me, and they were going to hit me with this fireman’s hose that blew pressurised air so I’d be flung off my feet and land on the boxes, right? Now, imagine you’re acting and you know that it’s going to happen but you can’t give it away in your lines even though it bloody hurts when it hits you. So we do it the first time and Tobe says, “That’s nothing. Turn it up higher.” ‘Cos, you know, Tobe wants the real thing. So they turn it up and it blows me off my feet and then Tobe shouts, “For Christ’s sake, turn it up all the way!” So for the last take it’s up to the maximum and I’m blown all the way over the cardboard boxes and onto a concrete ledge, injuring me. I got a little fracture on my rib so for the rest of the film I was in pain, which actually helped [laughs].”

The Mangler - Englund and Levine
Robert Englund and Ted Levine on set of The Mangler.

 

Incidentally, ‘pained’ is how Matmor sums up his non-Englund Mangler co-star, Ted Levine. Not that Matmor didn’t like the Silence of the Lambs (1991) antagonist, mind you; quite the opposite. It’s just, as Matmor explains, Levine – as the emotionally exhausted detective out to thwart Englund’s diabolical baddie, and lumbered with a hair weave of Nicolas Cage proportions – did not want to be there.

“I remember we got together for a reading; he came to my hotel room for a read through and he says, “So what do you want to do with this?” And I said, “Well, we’ll explore a couple of things and try stuff. We’ll go through the dialogue see what’s rubbish and what’s not, and see if we can make the rubbish sound good”. So I asked him what his approach to it was and he said, “My approach is that I’m going to destroy you in every fucking scene. My approach is that this is my fucking film and that you’re nothing” [laughs].”

“You know, Ted was mugged and stabbed during the shoot,” continues Matmor. “Three muggers, and they got him in the hand. Now they were probably going to stab him much worse but because Ted was that incensed at having to be in Jo-Burg, on The Mangler in the first place, he punched one of the robbers clean out and the other two fled in fear. His rage is what saved him! He’s a very tough guy, though. Very, very tough. He’s from Chicago, worked with Mamet. And he was absolutely apoplectic that someone would try and rob him [laughs].”

The Mangler hit U.S. screens on the 3rd March 1995 via New Line (fittingly, the ‘house that Freddy built’), under-performing and raking in a paltry $1.7million against the film’s just-shy-of-ten-million budget. And as with the five Hooper flicks that preceded it, The Mangler‘s reviews were as poisonous as its box office; with David Kronke of the Los Angeles Times calling it a “glum, lacklustre affair” and Bill Hoffman of the New York Post curtly describing Hooper’s thunderous bed of succulent schlock goodness as “a mess”. Maddeningly, we Brits were just as unforgiving, and following a brief U.K. theatrical run The Mangler would sink into rental obscurity, surfacing only for a cheapie DVD release and the occasional showing on The Horror Channel.

Despite being made earlier, Night Terrors, meanwhile, had the ignominy of landing on American soil well over a year after The Mangler had came and went, finally arriving on tape in August 1996. Blasted upon its British cassette bow two years previously, Night Terrors fared as poorly across the Atlantic. Creature Features author John Stanley in particular harshly labelled Hooper’s endearingly kooky slice of intoxicating horroritca as “[an] ugly piece of crap… [The] whole movie sucks”.

As far as I’m concerned, Stanley’s wrong on both counts.

“You know what?” ponders Matmor as our chinwag draws to a close. “It used to be that Heaven’s Gate (1980) was seen as one of the worst films in the world. Now it’s considered a masterpiece. We judge things by time, and a lot of horror films have fallen by the wayside. But Night Terrors and The Mangler – The Mangler especially – people are still watching them. People are still talking about them on social media and such. People are still remembering them, like you right now. So I’d say they’re doing better now than they ever have. And I think that’ll only continue.”

 

Footnotes:
[1] ‘The Mangler: Clothes Encounters of the Gory Kind’, Fangoria, Issue #141, April 1995.
[2] On Trilling, Matmor says, “She was an odd girl. She seemed rather delicate, actually. You have to have a bit more of a thick skin to make it in this business – especially if you’re a woman, sadly.”
[3] Other Phantom-fuelled flicks of the period include: Phantom of Death (1988), Phantom of the Ritz (1988), Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989), Popcorn (1991), and the 1991 TV movie, Phantom of the Opera.
[4] First intended for Ken Russell and his Crimes of Passion (1984) star, Anthony Perkins (who’d previously headlined Towers’ sprightly Jekyll & Hyde riff Edge of Sanity (1988)), The Mummy Lives would eventually come to fruition under Night Terrors’ original director, Gerry O’Hara.


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